Bharatha Natyam tonal beauty | Daily News

Bharatha Natyam tonal beauty

In any dance recital, the dance is the central piece. In Classical Bharatha Natyam the vocal music selected musical instruments, and nattuvangam ([the function of which is to co-ordinate the Thala, Laya, and the Music) constitute the accompaniments. These artistes are commonly called sidemen.

Earlier in the prototype of Bharatha Natyam era, which is commonly known as sathir period, during that period, the dancers themselves sang, but today the vocalist in Classical Bharatha Natyam dance recitals is an entirely different person. The dancer doesn’t normally sing. Just as in modern cinema the actors do not sing, but employ playback singers. The ancient Tamils used a variety of musical instruments, as can be gathered from sculptures, paintings, stone inscriptions, copper plate inscriptions and Tamil literature.

Instrumental music

In ancient times, the instruments used for dance were collectively called “Geethangam’’ and the instruments used for nirtham (steps or Adavus) were called “Nirthankam’’. These are evidenced in various literacy sources. Yet it is noted that some of the string instruments used in ancient times have fallen into disuse, due to various practical difficulties. For example, the Yarl was widely used by ancient Tamils. But today it is never used. It has fallen into disuse. After its period, another string instrument named Veena has been accepted, as a suitable instrument. The pre-eminent position occupied by Veena in dance recitals is portrayed in temple tower sculptures and decorated walls. According to an inscription that the gifts made by the kings to the Veena players are called even to this day; as Veena lands (Veena Kaani). Generally, Veena is not only used as an accompaniment, but it is used to bring out certain human emotions. However today Veena has not occupied a pre-eminent position in Bharatha Natyam recitals. Its use is dictated by the preferences of the individual dancers.

But today the violin occupies an important place as a string instrument in the dance recitals. Violin is basically and originally a western instrument, which was introduced to Carnatic music reputedly by Vadivelu one of the Tanjore Quartette. Violin is not only a supportive instrument for dance, but it is also used to bring out, some human emotions in dance as well as in dance dramas vividly. Before the beginning of a song, the violin is used to play the opening bars or the selective raga of the song. This gives the cue, to the dancer as well as to the other accompaniments. Another string instrument used in dance is Thambura.

But using this string instrument is now slowly and slowly vanishing from the modern stages. This is mainly used to set and maintain the Suruthi tone continuously. It is either used alone or with the combination of Suruthi box, essentially to maintain the tonal quality. Nowadays Thambura and Suruthi box are not being played by the people directly, in the recitals. But now these instruments are played with the aid of electrical and electronic devices in the form of small boxes.

Sweet melody

Another wind instrument often used in Bharatha Natyam is the Flute. It is preferred for its sweet melody. Like Violin, the flute is also used to play the opening bars of the song’s appropriate Raga.

A common leather instrument use in Bharatha Natyam is mridangam. It helps to keep the Thala and coordinate the basic Thala, (rhythm) with music and dance. Among the other uses, Mridangam is also used to accompany the sollukadu nattuvangam, or with pure nirtha dance movements, or to keep the time with certain attractive dance poses, or to give the finishing touch especially to the Thirmanam Korvais.

Apart from mridangam, another Thala Laya instrument is the Ghatam. The tonal quality of Ghatam is sharp. And its use is determined by the preferences of the individual dancers.

Another wind instrument is Harmonium. Earlier, it was considered as an important and very supportive instrument to maintain the Suruthi level and to play the selective music of the song. But its use is gradually declining. It is said that during the Sathir era, the temple dancers also used another temple wind instrument called Nathaswaram. But it is not at all commonly used in Bharatha Natyam today. Another wind instrument used in Bharatha Natyam is Clarinet. TodayClarinet is used to bring out only certain ragas like Punakavaralie.

Entire structure

An indispensable instrument is the Cymbals (hand metal Thala), wielded by the nattuvanar who conducts the recital. The cymbals set the base for the entire Thala structure and govern the conduct of the dance recital. Another instrument used in Bharatha Natyam is the Morsing. Vocalist plays the key role, as it is he or she who sets the tone for the recital. However departing from the tradition, some Bharatha Natyam artistes use a medley of instruments, eastern and western. The result is cacophony.


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